In the newest installment of #takethewheel, we chat with Mr. Robert Winkelmann, fellow gear head and owner of Fox & Harrison, the Chicago-based event and media company. When he's not producing video & photo shoots for some of the country's largest brands, you can find him cruising downtown Chicago in his new euro-spec G-Wagen.
Sit back, relax and let Mr. Harrison dish on his current car collection, his favorite hotel in London and making moonshine on a family ranch in Austria. Drink up.
Why don’t you give us a little intro and tell us about the day job…
Robert Winkelmann (RW): I own an event and commercial media production company in Chicago and dabble a little in real estate. We produce video and photo for product, fashion and industry needs. So basically anything from menswear, to in-flight training videos for airlines; we handle it all. My friends think I don't have a job because I work a lot from home and on-location and don't comb my hair most days.
Word on the street is that you’re a car guy, how about a rundown of your current stable?
RW: Damn. You know, I have a little bit of an addiction. My current roster includes my old ’87 Land Rover Defender 90, with about 180k well earned miles on the clock that was imported from the Netherlands back in 2013, my Mercedes G500 Europa Model, and an ever revolving list of old Honda and Triumph motorcycles that I have turned into cafe bikes and flat trackers.
Do you have a favorite?
RW: There’s something about my Defender - It’s slow, it doesn’t have A/C and I always show up smelling like diesel fuel. But she was my first real 4x4 and a car I had been dreaming about since I was a kid, seeing pictures of my Dad’s old Series I and II Land Rovers he had growing up on the farm in Austria.
Is there anything you dislike about driving it?
RW: Ordering from drive throughs, or getting out of a parking garage. Three words: Right hand drive. Also, there’s that thing about no A/C and needing to carry a new shirt with me everywhere I drive in the summer.
Have any toys without motors we should know about?
RW: I've been heavy into sailboats for years. More specifically, J-22s and the lot. There's nothing like a good beer can race on a weekend up here in Chicago.
Car you most regret selling?
RW: Probably my old '80s 911.
Any toys on the wish list?
RW: BMW 3.0 CSI, Volkswagen Baja Bug, KTM Enduro, Toyota FJ40.
You have one hour to escape your normal day, what do you do?
RW: Throw the dogs in the truck and just drive. I wish I could say I have an amazing outlet like the PCH, but living in Chicago means doing more urban exploring into areas and neighborhoods I've never seen - or to the dog beach.
Now you’ve got 2 weeks…
RW: Get the hell out of dodge. Book a flight to Austria and go dark. Disconnect from my phone, social media, emails, and everything else. I grew up spending my summers out there on the family ranch, hiking, distilling moonshine (schnapps) from apples and pears grown on the orchard, and taking to the winding mountain roads with any car or motorcycle I can get my hands on. That all probably sounds bougie, but it's anything but.
Favorite trip not yet taken?
RW: Motorcycle tour through South America with my dad and closest friends.
The one hotel that you judge all others by and why…
RW: I've probably stayed in some of the most opulent full service luxury hotels in the world, but the hotel that I keep going back to in my mind is the Portobello Hotel in London's Notting Hill. I'm not even a huge fan of London, but there's this room there called "the round room," that I love. It transports you. I don't know if it even has a tv and there's no room service but there is something about it. A huge copper soaking tub in the middle of the room that's a highlight in itself and muslin draped from the ceiling over this round bed that's right next to these French doors that open up to overlook this green area and garden. It's quiet, unassuming, no one there is trying to kiss your ass and you can just stay in bed all day with your significant other listening to music and eating Chinese takeout from up the road. Right now though, I'm on a vacation rental kick.
You can teleport to any bar in the world right now, where to?
RW: That's a really difficult question - it's all about the atmosphere to me. If we're going off cocktails alone, The Aviary. It's the brainchild of Grant Achatz who's the chef over at Alinea. Every drink they present to you is like a science experiment with smoke and custom glassware. If it's the atmosphere, probably this bar called Valentinos in Rovinj, Croatia. Go there early summer and be the only one sipping your cocktail, watching the sailboats pass by while the sun sets.
What’s your drink?
What will we always find on your nightstand?
RW: Probably my phone and some sort of pistol. Most likely my Wilson Combat 1911.
The one item you are never without?
RW: Pocket Knife.
Do you have a travel hack for everybody out there?
RW: If you travel abroad, buy an unlocked 4G/LTE phone off amazon for like $70 and then get a prepaid SIM card wherever you land. Tether off that baby with your American phone and laptop and never find yourself in a jam.
Where’s your hometown?
RW: Jackson, Mississippi.
Place we’re most likely to find you if we’re looking?
RW: On my back porch with my 3 dogs.
Place we’d never find you?
RW: I had my euro club days in college when I lived in Austria. So basically anywhere there’s bottle service or promoters.
The road you drive to take your mind off things?
RW: Driving through Chicago's South Loop and China town, in the middle of the night. It's a ghost town at that time and you feel like you're in one of those super sexy car commercials.
What’s on the wrist?
RW: For daily wear, I run with a Rolex GMT II. If I have to look presentable for an event, it's my mid-1950s Gold Patek Calatrava or a slim JLC Reverso.
Digital or Film?
RW: FILM! Even though my work revolves around digital images and video, the depth of color and dimension to the developed images shot on medium format like our Contax 645 or Hasselblads is something unparalleled...but it's also more of a pain in the ass and that isn't lost on me.
Diesel or Gas?
RW: I'm an advocate for both! But diesel is my jam.
Rocks or neat?
RW: All my Kentucky friends tell me to drink my bourbon with a couple of ice cubes. I don't know if that's some redneck Kentucky thing or what, but then again, if I'm drinking Pappy, I'm drinking that neat.
Last Google search?
RW: Dive shops in the Dominican Republic.
Biggest risk ever taken?
RW: Packing up my car with all of my worldly possessions and moving to Chicago. I had never been to Chicago and I didn't know a single soul. I slept on an air mattress for months until I had a full time job at my old agency.